By Marye Audet
All those complex rules of etiquette boil down to one simple word.
It means that you are treating others in the same way that you want to be treated, but learning these rules does much, much more. Etiquette helps children identify with others and produces important emotions like empathy, sympathy, and compassion. When people are polite they acknowledge that others are just as important as they are and have the same feelings, both emotional and physical, as they do.
Please and Thank You
Saying “please” acknowledges that you are asking someone for something that you are not necessarily entitled to. It not only signals respect but also conveys that you identify that person as at least an equal, rather than implying that he is a servant and required to do what you ask.
In the same way, once the request is honored and fulfilled, saying “thank you” or writing a note implies gratitude for the act. “Thank you” is derived from the word “think.” Basically, you are saying, “I will remember what you have done.”
When you interrupt someone, you are implying that you are more important than that person, and that what you need to say is more valuable or necessary. Waiting until the other person has finished talking lets her know that you respect her and value her.
If it is extremely important to say something that is time sensitive (“The house is on fire!” for example), then gently touch the person you wish to talk to and say, “Excuse me,” and then wait for acknowledgement. By doing this you are asking permission to break into the conversation and honoring the speaker.
Look People in the Eye
It is often said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Emotions are often easy to read if you can see someone’s eyes. When a person speaks to you, it is a matter of respect to answer him and look him in the eye. If you shift your gaze to the ground or to the side, you will give the impression that you are deceptive, and can’t be trusted. This really isn’t fair, since many shy people have difficulty looking others in the eye, but it can be practiced. Even shy people can overcome the tendency to look away.
Hold the Door
When you are going through a door, especially in a public place, look behind you to see if there is someone about to go through it as well. If so, once you are through, you should step aside and hold the door open for the person behind you.
If you are entering a door then you’ll hold it and let those behind you go through first. It is a kindness that doesn’t take more than a few seconds, and it makes the other person feel good. Holding the door for others reminds you that it’s important to care for one another. It’s an acknowledgement that we’re all in this together.
Being polite at the table is important no matter where you are. Poor table manners tell others that you don’t care about their feelings, plus they embarrass your companions.. Many situations in life will call for you to share a meal with someone you wish to impress, whether it is a girlfriend or boyfriend, a potential employer, or a client.
- Chew with your mouth closed and in a quiet way. Smacking your lips and chewing with your mouth open isn’t pleasant for those around you. It can even cause them to lose their appetites. In the same way, leave the table if you must blow your nose or burp.
- Wait until everyone at the table is seated and has their plates before beginning to eat your meal. In past centuries the most important people were served first. By waiting you are showing the rest of the group that you respect them.
- Ask for food to be passed; do not reach for it. When you reach across the table you are also reaching across someone’s plate of food. A strand of hair, some dirt, or thread could fall from your clothes onto someone else’s plate.
Being polite will make it easier to achieve your goals in life. People are more inclined to want to help someone they like and respect. Polite people are generally more popular than those who aren’t, and when you get into the adult world, being popular and well liked can make a big difference in the opportunities you are offered.